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If you’ll recall 2004, a bogus war was raging. And George W. Bush and his crew, having built the war on a lie, were sustaining that war with a steady stream of fresh lies. Going far away had considerable appeal. And going to a region of small farms and few cities in the Southwest of France made the escape fantasy even better.
Houses are stories, and Gaurenne had a good one. Its owner is Judith Lit, a New York-based filmmaker with a long list of documentaries and awards. But she’d spent her childhood on a Pennsylvania farm, and had seen small farming give way to industrial farming and suburban housing. The Dordogne was her childhood home, pushed back a few centuries: a limestone house built in the 1700s, with 22 acres of meadows and woods. When she bought it, it needed work. Not an issue — the renovation was a long term project, with spiritual overtones.
Gaurenne now straddles the centuries. The fruit and walnut orchards are flourishing, the covered stone terrace fairly screams “cocktails,” the two bedrooms are comfortable, and did I say there’s a saltwater swimming pool that would do credit to a house in the Hamptons? We stayed a month. I got a lot of writing done; if we were doing it again, a week or two would be wiser. Another visitor wrote about her Gaurenne experience in the Boston Globe. For a lovely pictorial tour of the house, the region, and the rental information, visit the Gaurenne website. (If you write Ms. Lit, tell her you’re a Butler reader. It will move you to the front of the line.)
Small farms are under threat everywhere, even in rural France, so Judith Lit did her part to call attention to the difficulties and rewards of this threatened way of life — she made a film. It is an old truth that the French are notoriously private; you can know a French person for years and not be invited into her home. Judith Lit was an exception — she was a neighbor, and then a friend. Watch the trailer for “After Winter, Spring.” [To buy or stream the film from Amazon, click here.]
People who live and work in harmony with the land. People who feel the seasons. People who are part of a community. For me, those are fantasies. For the small farmers of the Perigord, this is reality. War or no war, it’s good to be there.
Previously published on The Head Butler.
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